A MAN has been banned from owning birds for 10 years after he was present at a cockfight.

Gerald John Hughes, 49, was prosecuted by the RSPCA after the animal welfare charity was sent video clips showing a crowd gathered around fighting cockerels in a garden.

The RSPCA launched an investigation, which included executing a warrant alongside police in July last year.

Officers reportedly observed a number of birds within an aviary, including a small brown bird, known as a Linnet, that officers suspected had been trapped from the wild and placed in captivity.

The wild Linnet was examined by a vet who specialises in birds, an RSPCA spokesperson said.

They reportedly found the feathering on both wings was very poor and the bird’s tail was in an a bad condition, with the remains of only one feather. There was also damage to the bird’s jaw and loss of feathers to the sides of the beak, it was reported.

After seeing the footage of the cockfight, Mike Butcher, a retired RSPCA Inspector who worked for the charity for more than 40 years, said: “Cockfighting can cause very serious injuries and death, as the intention is for one cockerel to win by killing its opponent using beak, wings and particularly the hard natural spur.

“Cockerels are naturally aggressive and do not need much encouragement to attack another cockerel when the two are faced together; no matter where they are."

Hughes, of Mistover Road, Wareham, was charged with being present at an animal fight and possessing a live wild bird.

He pleaded guilty to both offences and was sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates' Court on February 3.

Dorset Echo: The case was dealt with at Weymouth Magistrates' Court earlier this monthThe case was dealt with at Weymouth Magistrates' Court earlier this month

The defendant was handed a 10-year disqualification from keeping birds, which could not be appealed for five years.

Hughes was given a two-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay a £22 victim surcharge and £200 costs.

RSPCA inspector Miranda Albinson, who helped investigate for the animal welfare charity, said: “Cockfighting is an abhorrent and cruel practise which was outlawed almost 200 years ago. During fights, cockerels are placed into a pit where they face off, cheered on by a jeering crowd.

“Cockerels will inflict nasty wounds on each other pecking and scratching at the eyes and face and often leaving open, bloody wounds at the top of the beak, around the eyes and on the neck.

“To take enjoyment from watching two birds inflict such horrendous – and often life-threatening – injuries on each other is something that should be well and truly confined to the history books.”

PC Sebastian Haggett, from the Dorset Rural Crime Team who assisted with the case, said: “We will always look to work with and support our partner agencies to disrupt, detect and deter offenders.

“This case was a prime example of excellent partnership working between Dorset Police and the RSPCA. We will continue to target and take action against those that commit offences across Dorset such as cock fighting and organised animal fighting."

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